As we approach the 60th Anniversary of Doctor Who, revisit the story of Doctor Who, the occasional series written for the 50th Anniversary, explaining the origins of the programme.

Episode 31 - An Unearthly Series - The Origins of a TV Legend: First published 23 Nov 2013

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Thursday, 10 July 2014 - Reviewed by Richard Brinck-Johnsen

Dark Eyes 2
Released by Big Finish
Written by Nicholas Briggs, Alan Barnes, Matt Fitton
Directed by Nicholas Briggs
Released: Feb 2014

Following on the success of the 2012 release Dark Eyes, which was awarded Best Online Only Drama in the 2014 BBC Audio Drama awards; it seemed inevitable that the popular pairing of the eighth Doctor and new companion Molly O’Sullivan would be back for more adventures. The original four-part box set which was written and produced by Nicholas Briggs was originally conceived to encapsulate a whole era of Doctor Who, as if Briggs were show-runner for the eighth Doctor. As such whilst the story of Molly’s adventures seemed to have been neatly rounded off with her resuming her old life as nurse in the Great War following the Doctor’s defeat of the Dalek Time Controller and its ally Kotris, there are always new dangers to be fought. Dark Eyes 2 sees the beginning of a new story-arc which is promised to continue over to further box set releases – Dark Eyes 3 & 4 – due to be released later this year and in early 2015. This time Briggs has shared the writing duties with Big Finish stalwarts Alan Barnes and Matt Fitton who have taken on responsibility for planning out the new arc.

The new set opens with Briggs’ contribution, The Traitor, which finds the Doctor on the Dalek-occupied planet of Nixyce VII where he is reunited with med-tech Liv Chenka, played once again by Nicola Walker. Liv first appeared in the 2011 seventh Doctor release Robophobia but she is naturally sceptical of Paul McGann’s Doctor's claim to be the same Doctor she encountered previously. Her role as an apparent collaborator with the Daleks will remind long-time Big Finish listeners of that the “Angel of Mercy” Susan Mendes in the spin-off series Dalek Empire and once again Briggs evokes a similar atmosphere of harsh life under Dalek-rule. Walker and McGann are given some great material to work with as their characters clash due to the Doctor’s ambiguous role in events.

The second story, The White Room by Alan Barnes, finally brings about the welcome reunion of McGann’s Doctor with Ruth Bradley as Molly. This is possibly the weakest of the four episodes although it still manages to be a fun romp with time-travel elements although the reveal of which recurring aliens from previous Big Finish releases are responsible may leave some listeners slightly underwhelmed. However this still sets the scene nicely for the adventures to come.

The remaining two stories are both written by Matt Fitton and in these the box set gets down to business and back to the more serious tone established by The Traitor. Minor spoilers follow.

Time’s Horizon sees the Doctor and Molly arrive on a space-ship in the distant future where the crew have just been revived from centuries of cryosleep. Amongst them is Liv Chenka who we learn managed to narrowly escape from Nixyce VII with her life and is therefore not very pleased to see the Doctor. For the Doctor however, in a twist worthy of Steven Moffat, the events of Nixyce VII have not yet happened so he has no recollection and faces the added complication of ensuring Liv doesn’t tell him too much. This story sees the return of another Big Finish recurring enemy, the sinister force known as the Eminence, played with relish by David Sibley. Ironically this release pre-dates their first chronological appearance opposite the fourth Doctor in the June 2014 release Destroy the Infinite although in typical Big Finish timey-wimey-ness, The Eminence first appeared in last year’s sixth Doctor adventure The Seeds of War. However this story does not require any prior knowledge to be able to follow.

The set concludes with the much anticipated reunion of the eighth Doctor with his TV Movie adversary, The Master. Alex Macqueen first appeared in the role in the 2012 box set UNIT: Dominion in which his true identity was revealed after he successfully masqueraded as a future incarnation of the Doctor. Big Finish have previously remained tight-lipped about this incarnation’s position in the Master’s time-line but a couple of throwaway lines including Macqueen describing McGann’s Doctor as “a sight for sore eyes” hints at an answer to satisfy most fans. Macqueen has made clear in interviews that he takes his performance from the scripts and doesn’t base his portrayal on any of the previous TV incarnations. However it is clear from the scripting that his slightly camp and brilliantly sinister Master sits comfortably between the calculated menace of Delgado and Beevers, and the unhinged villainy of Ainley and Simm. The Eyes of the Master sees the two Time Lords reunited in their familiar battleground of 1970s London. The story is a worthy conclusion to the set with some great scenes although we are promised a full on face-off between the Doctor and the Master in Dark Eyes 3 this November.

Overall, Dark Eyes 2 is a worthy continuation of the Eighth Doctor’s adventures which left this listener yearning for the next instalment. Paul McGann continues to live up to the promise of being “probably not the one you were expecting”.

FILTER: - Big Finish - Eighth Doctor - Audio - 1781783047